A coalition of African think tanks and partners has been proposed to deliver action plans that support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).
To bring down barriers and make African free trade a reality, the continent first needs to break down the hurdles that slow down the free flow of ideas across Africa.
This was the consensus at the 9th Africa Think Tank Summit held in Lusaka, Zambia, from November 8-10. The summit ran under the theme “Linking Evidence, Policies, and Practice to Contribute to the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement”.
The summit was convened by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), a specialized agency of the African Union for capacity development, in partnership with the Africa Think Tank Network (ATTN), the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry (MCTI) of Zambia, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Visa Foundation, the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI) Secretariat, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).
The event provided a platform for Africa’s leading think tanks to share ideas on how to shift gears on the continent’s road to implementing the AfCFTA. Participants drawn from various disciplines debated the capacities needed to accelerate the implementation of the AfCFTA, and to make sure that its implementation brings sustainable development to Africa.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Mr. Mamadou Biteye, Executive Secretary of ACBF, said Africa needs to bridge the gap between policy and action. To do this, he said, ACBF is supporting capacity building in the African institutions that have key tasks in the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“Moreover, it requires building the institutional capacity of regional economic communities and policy research institutions to provide timely and relevant evidence to inform policy debates,” Mr. Biteye said.
For African integration to work, the continent must also integrate its knowledge bases through shared platforms, such as think tanks.
“Let us forge partnerships that transcend borders and sectors, creating a vibrant ecosystem that supports the implementation of the AfCFTA. Together, we can build the capacity required to link evidence to policies and translate them into impactful practices that drive inclusive growth and equitable development,” Mr. Biteye told participants.
Giving his welcoming remarks, Hon Charles Milupi, Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development in the Republic of Zambia, said Zambia was confident in the AFCFTA agreement transforming the landscape of African trade.
Among the host of eminent speakers was Dr. Nalishebo Meebelo, Executive Director of the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI) Secretariat, Mr William Chibwana, a representative of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Mr Charles Chiza Chiumya, Acting Director- Industry, Minerals, Entrepreneurship and Tourism at the African Union Commission, and Ms. Christina Duarte, Under-Secretary-General and the Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General.
All who spoke stressed the importance of African think tanks in bringing together the best ideas and skills necessary to make the continent’s ambitions for sustainable growth a reality.
They tasked the think tanks to push beyond setting policies, and to come up with a set of concrete recommendations, policy guidelines, and collaboration framework to guide governments, institutions, and stakeholders to advance the implementation of the AfCFTA.
The summit gathered experts to analyse and raise awareness of the data and evidence gaps to support the successful and effective implementation of the AfCFTA. The think tanks shared experiences on how to improve the use of evidence, practices, and policies in the implementation of the AfCFTA. The summit also set out to identify key capacity and critical technical skills challenges faced by critical institutions and actors that could jeopardize the implementation of the AfCFTA.
Looking beyond policy to practical action, the summit was targeted at proposing specific steps to capacitate the private sector so that it drives the AfCFTA and benefits from its implementation.